Oakland welcomes superheroes at Image Comic Expo

Superheroes, zombies, and comic book fans from all walks of life were the center of attention at the first-ever Image Expo this weekend in Oakland. The three-day fan fest commemorated the 20th anniversary of Berkeley-based Image Comics the independent, creator-owned comic book publishing company.

“Our expectations were very modest coming into the event since this is our first,” said convention promoter and retailer Jimmy Jay. “We put the event together in less than three months, and we wanted to throw something that was cool and celebrated the medium.”

The event however, exceeded those expectations with just under 10,000 people showing up, some dressed as their favorite characters from comic books such as Spawn, The Walking Dead, and Invincible.

Image has become the third largest comics publisher in the country behind only powerhouses Marvel and DC, and is home to some of the best new talent in the medium. Popular titles include Savage Dragon, Witchblade, The Darkness, and most recently, Glory.

Long lines stretched to the entrance of the convention as attendees waited for a chance to speak with Robert Kirkman, creator of “The Walking Dead,” as well as a panel of special guests including writers and illustrators BK Vaughan, Fiona Staples, Blair Butler, Ed Brubaker, Joe Casey, and John Layman. Headline guests included Image Comics founders and partners Robert Kirkman, Erik Larsen, Rob Liefeld, Todd McFarlane, Marc Silvestri, and Jim Valentino.

“I’ve never been to an expo, but I’ve been reading Spawn for years,” said comic book fan Jason Sodano, while waiting on line to meet the cast of AMC’s hit show “The Walking Dead.” “I’m getting as many different books signed by the creators as I can.”

Some of the panels included workshops with writers discussing what publishers look for in new projects, critiques for up-and-coming artists, and the history of censorship in comics.

Image was formed back in 1992, when these top-selling artists decided to organize their own company so that comic creators could bring new ideas to the table and own their intellectual property without worrying about receiving modest royalties or giving up the copyrights for working on characters that were the property of their corporate owners.

“What makes this different from bigger events like Comic Con in New York is that it’s an intimate affair,” said Enrique Carrion, artist of the newly published Image comic Vescell. “Here, people really get a chance to talk to the creators of their favorite books. Our culture directly influences art and it’s that marriage of style that really brings it home.”

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